Interview with prominent American journalist David Swanson

 

DavidSwansonKourosh Ziabari – Fars News Agency: Prominent American author David Swanson believes that the world nations should strongly stand up to protest at the US warmongering policies in the region and its illegal calls for war against Syria which is a violation of the UN Charter and Kellogg-Briand Pact that prevent the world countries from unilateral use of force against another sovereign state.

David Swanson also believes that the United Nations should impose sanctions against the United States because it has violated the UN Charter by threatening a military strike against Syria.

“I think the United Nations needs to speak up as clearly as it can against any assault on Syria and needs to propose sanctions on the United States for such an action. I think that Germany needs to speak as clearly as Britain did. France needs to drop its support for such an attack and above all, we here in the United States need to get up from in front of our televisions, football games and picnics and go and protest our government. There are people in Washington D.C. now who are staying at the capital day and night, sleeping there, and protesting every day and every night. They need to be joined,” said Swanson in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

David Swanson has written many books, including “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” and “War Is A Lie.” He had once proposed the impeachment of former US President George W. Bush and Vice-President Richard Cheney over the war crimes they committed in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is the host of “Talk Nation Radio”. Swanson helped plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC in 2011. Swanson holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia.

What follows is the text of FNA’s interview with David Swanson. The interview was carried out 10 days ago, so Mr. Swanson’s references to specific dates were made then.

Q: The United States has publicly announced that it’s pondering upon a military strike against Syria over the allegations that the government of President Assad has used chemical weapons against the civilians. However, the US administration has so far failed to present reliable evidence substantiating its claims, and it seems the US will have a hard job justifying a war against Syria, especially given that the UN inspectors haven’t released any final report yet and their early report only says that there has been a chemical attack, but does not blame anyone for it. What’s your viewpoint on that?

A: I have two answers for this. One is that even if unquestionable video evidence were produced that Bashar al-Assad personally murdering children with poison gas, it would not begin to justify a US military attack on Syria. It would not make it legal, it would not make it moral and it would not make it productive. It would remain a disastrous policy, regardless. Second answer; insofar as the question that who, if anyone, used chemical weapons in Syria last month in Syria, which is an important question on its own, the US government has not produced evidence. Whether it ever does so, I don’t know; whether such evidence exists, I don’t know. They are Congress members demanding evidence; they are media outlets, activist groups, members of the public in the United States demanding to see the evidence. They are some Congress members who have seen classified materials from the White House who say it provides no more evidence than the unclassified materials that don’t explain it. Our understanding is that there is a public four-page statement from the White House and a secret 12-page statement which some Congress members have made very clear provides nothing more and particularly different from the 4-page statement which does not even rise to the level of the Bush administration’s lies that took the United States and others into Iraq, so even if you were to accept that the use of chemical weapons was a reason for attacking Syria, the evidence isn’t there and it appears that they are not going to produce it and you can draw your own conclusion as to what that means. There are many reporting that in fact the rebels and the opposition in Syria were in fact responsible for the attack. I don’t think it’s been conclusively proven either, but there are many who have serious doubts here.

Q: There’s one notion that some US mainstream media outlets are trying to lay the groundwork for a military strike against Syria by producing false evidence to convince the international community that a war is needed, like what they did in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003, especially through the propaganda campaign of the New York Times and its journalist Judith Miller. Are they going to repeat the same scenario in Syria?

A: I think the major corporate media in the United States are by and large pro-war. They enjoy war; they think it’s exciting, it’s good for their business. They like talking to powerful generals and they are pro-government. They believe what the government tells them. They are as almost reliable for the White House as if they are state media that are required to report what the White House says. They do in fact report what the White House says; these things are reported as facts and reported as substantiated, whether it is or not. They don’t allow questioning for the most part, and that would have been more effective if they were state media because much of the public in the United States believe they are free, and that they think independently; questioning the government even though they are not. So it’s a very effective propaganda. I don’t think the media outlets in the United States have been producing any evidence, as you say. I think they have been manufacturing and accepting the White House claims and slanting everything in the direction of war. They have been writing repeatedly that almost the majority of Americans oppose this war, whereas in most polls, it’s the overwhelming majority of the Americans who oppose the war. In all the polls, only a small number, something around fewer than 10% or fewer than 15% support the war. They have been talking about President Obama as if he were in favor of peace or against his own policies here. They have been presenting evidence as if it were true, including lies, by the White House that how long it took for the United States to allow inspectors to go and observe the scene, including a blatant lie from the Secretary of State John Kerry about the nature of the opposition in Syria and the opposition’s inclinations towards secularism, human rights and democracy and so forth. To some extent, the New York Times has been helpful there. On Thursday (two weeks ago), they had a big front-page story about Syrian rebels executing prisoners, with a photograph. When it comes to evidence, they accept claims without questions far too often, and they accept hypocrisy and no one in the US media talks about the United States’ use of chemical weapons and its stockpile of chemical weapons and the fact that Syria is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention and therefore could not violate it, and the fact that Israel, Egypt and a few other countries are not members of this convention either, that the United States opposes the International Criminal Court, and that the Chemical Weapons Convention doesn’t authorize a vigilante nation, 4 percent of the people of the world, to go and bomb someone. It requires, instead, prosecution in a court of law. So it’s not just what the media tells you about the approved topic, that is the chemical weapons and to use them. It’s the topic that isn’t touched on at all, including the available alternatives of pushing for a ceasefire, de-escalation and disarmament in Syria, so we’re left with the choice in the mind of Americans between nothing and bombing Syria, as if there were no other choices because the media doesn’t give us any other choices.

Q: The excuse the United States is resorting to in order to launch a military strike against Syria is that the government of President Assad has used chemical weapons against its own civilians, but the fact is that actually Syria does not pose any threat to the US national interests or its national security, and the claims against Syria are not substantiated anyway. So how is it going to justify a war while Syria hasn’t launched any attack on the US allies in the region or hasn’t ever threatened the United States?

A: Well, the United States government has not justified it to the US public and the vast majority of the people are against it. They haven’t justified it to the US Senate, yet, although it’s close, and to the US House of Representatives, although it’s somewhat close. They are strongly against the war. Moreover, it hasn’t justified the case to the United Nations, and doesn’t seem to be attempting to do so. So, legally it would be a violation of the UN Charter. It would be a violation of an important treaty that most people have forgotten, the Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928, which Iran and the United States are parties to and bans war. They have not been able to justify it to many people in the United States who have supported wars in the recent years, in part for just the reason you say. Syria is not any sort of threat to the United States. Syria has not attacked and is not going to attack the United States. But, CIA is already involved in the war on Syria.

The United States is already supporting a war against Syria, and if the United States escalates it to the point that Syria, Hezbollah, Iran or Russia retaliate, or anyone who is possibly accused of having retaliated against the US troops or perhaps against Israel, then the claim will be immediately made in Washington that there is a justification for a wider war, even if Washington has provoked it, and that would be immediately forgotten. So this is the danger here that the United States provokes a response by Syria or other interested parties, and that then it responds to that response, and those parties then respond to that response, and then we will have an escalating war and a cycle of greater violence because then the fact that Syria has never been a threat to the United States to begin with will be forgotten in the US media.

Q: Some political commentators have suggested that President Obama has been looking for an opportunity or a pretext to be able to justify the military strike against Syria and build up support for a new war in the Middle East, and the recent chemical attack, regardless of its perpetrator has given him the excuse. Do you agree with that? Will the US public finally accept or get along with such an attack?

A: I’m hopeful that the US public will resist and the Congress as the people’s representative will also resist. If this week, the House of Representatives, in particular or even the Senate, refuses to approve of this war, the White House will be in a very difficult position. If the House of Representatives’ leadership refuses to hold a vote it would be clear why they refuse to hold a vote. It may be that the majority of House members will insist on a vote over the will of the speaker and the democratic leader, and we will know in either of those cases if the president goes ahead with the war, then he will be violating the US Constitution as well as the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. That would be a clear ground for his impeachment, and that would be a crisis in the US government. Whether President Obama has been waiting for such a pretext, it’s not entirely clear because he always seems to be of two minds. He seems to be someone who wants to please everybody. He wants to please those who want a limited, surgical strike to send a message and he wants to please those who want an all-out war to put the opposition, whoever they may be, in charge of Syria, and this of course includes people like Senator John McCain who have openly said that they want to overthrow the Syrian government in order to move on to overthrow the Iranian government and President Barack Obama seems to be clearly inclined to please those people, as well as other people, and the good twist in this story here is that Obama has managed to anger everybody!

The people who want a very a limited war, if you can guarantee such a thing, are now outraged that now President Obama is supporting a wider war and the people who want a huge war are angry that President Obama only wants a little one, and this is helpful in terms of getting the Congress to block him. What he personally wants and thinks is better is of less interest to me and I think should be of less interest to all of us, and what he is doing, and that he declares he personally has the power to launch a war without Congress, without the United Nations, without NATO and without anybody which is outrageous. He is violating the UN Charter by threatening war on Syria, and the threat is a self-violation and he is urging Congress, and his Secretary of State is also urging the Congress to give him unlimited power for war in Syria without end in time or space and of course, as I said, maintaining that he has that power anyway even if they don’t grant it to him.

Q: What do you think about the possible response by Syria’s allies such as Russia and Iran to an imminent military strike against Syria? Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that it may strike at Saudi Arabia if Washington proceeds with its plan to attack Syria. What’s your take on that?

A: I work night and day pushing the US government to stop aggravating and escalating this situation, and sabotaging the peace process and bring the opposition back to the table. But also, to lobby all parties, and press for a ceasefire and stop the flow of arms, I think that Russia ought to announce that it will stop arming the Syrian government, and that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and the United States must stop arming the opposition and it’s not my place to tell Russia what they must do; I tell the US government what it must do. But if you ask my opinion, that’s what it is and I do not think Russia should be threatening retaliation. I don’t even think Syria should threaten retaliation. I’m against war. But legally, Syria can fight back. In most people’s interpretation of the war, it would be legal for Syria to retaliate against the US troops attacking Syria. There are other interpretations including under the Kellogg-Briand Pact that bans war. I don’t think it’s wise and helpful. If Syria retaliates, the US will retaliate further, and things will get out of control. I think what Russia is doing right is pushing back against the claims of evidence on the chemical weapons because we haven’t seen the evidence and I think it’s clear to many Americans that John Kerry is lying, and it would be good for Mr. President to be pointing it out that John Kerry is lying. But I don’t think Russia is pushing for war just because the US is.

Q: China, as a veto-wielding power in the Security Council has so far remained surprisingly silent on the crisis in Syria to a large extent. What do you think the implications of a possible war against Syria will be for China? Why has the Chinese remained silent on this conflict? Why haven’t they shown a strong opposition to the war against Syria while they know it will have grave consequences for the region and even for themselves?

A: I don’t know any information within the Chinese government. I know they have a very complicated relationship with the United States with all the issues which they disagree on, the issues which they agree on, and the others which they’re working together on. If I had to make a prediction, I would predict that China would not permit an authorization of war through the Security Council. But I think that Russia and the United Kingdom and others are doing very well here, and I’m still hopeful that the public in France will manage to take control of their government which is shamefully supporting a strike against a nation that they previously colonized; something that they should have some historical shame about.

Q: The Security Council hasn’t authorized a military strike against Syria as Russia and China will surely veto any such resolution that will give the US and its allies the permission to attack Syria. Won’t any unilateral attack by the United States resemble a circumvention of the international law? You just mentioned that attacking Syria will be a violation of the UN Charter. Is the United States really going to do such an illegal thing?

A: I’ve partly answered to this before; but it’s a clear violation of international law to threaten war and that has already happened with regard to Syria and with regard to Iran and some other countries. The United States is a serial violator of the UN Charter’s prohibition of the threatening of war. It is a violation of the UN Charter to go to war without the authorization the Security Council or without it being a defensive war. So you have the US government talking about sending missiles into Syria to uphold what they call international norms or international standards against the use of chemical weapons.

The reason they don’t say international law is that there hasn’t been any violation of the law. Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, so they can’t violate it. And because they are in sending those missiles into Syria, then they are the ones who violate international law, violate the UN Charter and violate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and in so doing, violating perhaps the most central and important international norm and standard that one country cannot go and bomb another. If bombing a country were a way to enforce the law, when did the world elect the United States to do it? When did the other 96 percent of humanity vote for this four percent of humanity to build an enormous military and attack nations at will as a vigilante to support the rule of law by what they call the international community?

The international community at this point, at the understanding of the White House, is the US military, France perhaps, and Al-Qaeda. That’s all about it. They got 10 countries at the G-20 to sign a statement that they are going to misuse and abuse that doesn’t say there would be an attack, but that there should be serious consequences for using chemical weapons. Of course there should be, but they should be an indictment in courts of law, not through using other weapons to kill more people, so this is a lawless behavior in the name of supporting the law. This is anti-democratic behavior against the will of the US public even if it is the will of the most members of the US military, in the name of democracy. So it’s hard to imagine a more hypocritical action than this one.

Q: What do you think about the involvement of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the current turmoil in Syria? It’s been reported that Turkey has been financing and arming the rebels in Syria, and that Saudi Arabia has sent thousands of dangerous terrorists to Syria through the Jordanian borders. Why have they adopted such a hostile attitude toward Syria at this critical time?

A: Well, I can’t give you any expert views that you don’t know. Saudi Arabia and other nations in the Middle East see a conflict between Sunni and Shiite. They see a conflict over power and influence. They are at odds on whether the United States should be influencing the region or not. Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s backing of this kind of operation tells you something on how democratic it’s going to be, just as the CIA’s support for such an operation tells you how democratic it’s going to be. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy; it’s not a democracy. It’s a brutal government that the United States happily arms and supports. It’s sending cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. At the moment, the United States is arming brutal governments across that region like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Israel, and clearly doesn’t care about human rights in those cases. It did not care about deaths in Egypt that outnumbered anybody’s count of the deaths, and not incidents in Syria. One of many points of agreement is over the US influence. Turkey, as well, wants to work with the United States, NATO and Europe and is willing to tolerate outrageous acts for that cause.

Q: And as the final question, what’s your prediction for the future of the current crisis in Syria? Who should take action to prevent the US from launching an illegal war against Syria and pushing the whole region into an endless state of turmoil and instability?

A: I think the Syrian people should speak up as clearly as they possibly can; the people of the world should protest this clearly as possibly as they can. At this moment that we are speaking, the Pope in Rome has called for six hours of fasting and protest at this coming possible attack. I’ve seen reports of the people in the United States, Europe, Egypt and elsewhere planning to go to Syria as human shields to say if you bomb Syria, you’ll bomb us. That kind of courage is remarkable and exemplary.

I think the United Nations needs to speak up as clearly as it can against any assault on Syria and needs to propose sanctions on the United States for such an action. I think that Germany needs to speak as clearly as Britain did. France needs to drop its support for such an attack and above all, we here in the United States need to get up from in front of our televisions, football games and picnics and go and protest our government. There are people in Washington D.C. now who are staying at the capital day and night, sleeping there, and protesting every day and every night. They need to be joined. We need more people doing that, because what parliament did in Britain made a huge difference and if Congress does the same in the United States, it will help the movement against the US militarism like nothing before.

This interview was originally published on Fars News Agency.